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STEM School of Distinction

Weatherstone Elementary School, Cary, NCWeatherstone Elementary School, Cary, NC

Weatherstone Elementary School is a North Carolina STEM School of Distinction at the Model Level. Schools with this honor undergo a rigorous application process that requires responses and evidence demonstrating STEM implementation covering key elements rooted within Five Overarching Principles; a self-assessment of the school aligning to the STEM Schools Progress rubric, and a site visit.

The school incorporates STEM practices in every class by having students engage in monthly Project Based Learning (PBL) projects and by using the Engineering Design Process. For example, kindergarteners learn force and motion, matter properties and changes, earth systems and processes, and living organisms. First graders focus on molecular biology and ecosystems while second graders study evolution and genetics. In 3rd-5th grades, students explore the 5E Inquiry model (Engage, Explore, Explain, Elaborate, and Evaluate). Students delve into energy conservation and transfer in 3rd grade. Fourth graders learn Earth History and Earth in the Universe while fifth graders study Evolution and Genetics.

Math lessons are often integrated into real world Project Based Learning opportunities. For example, the 4th grade math classes collaborated with the PTA to design and build the Community Garden. Students utilized multiplication, area and perimeter, and fractions in their planning. Another example of math integration within PBLs is the annual 2nd grade Economics Fair. In this activity students integrate math and social studies content to produce a product or service for their class. These real-world examples allow students to participate in interactive hands-on activities.

The school has a specifically designed class with a STEM focus: Design & Innovation. Design & Innovation classes encourages students to utilize the Engineering Design Process when problem solving. Students complete STEM Challenges that supplement classroom instruction. Students explore various forms of technology that facilitate an environment of creativity and critical thinking, such as coding and robotics. In addition, students are challenged to collaborate and communicate with peers as they brainstorm ideas and work together to achieve common goals.